Have you ever withdrawn money from an ATM at a Spanish bank and been asked whether you want to be charged in Pounds or Euros? This is a common practise at many banks which confuses tourists. Many select "Pounds" when forced to choose but this is in fact the wrong choice. Always choose Euros!
This is a terrible scam known as "dynamic currency exchange" which allows overseas retailers to get away with ripping off foreign credit card holders by using a terrible exchange rate. Selecting Euros as the charging currency means that you'll get the exchange rate used by your UK card issuer which will be a lot better.
And whilst we're on the subject, what card do you use to make these withdrawals from the ATM? It seems to be fairly common knowledge that using a credit card to withdraw cash from an ATM incurs a commission. However, few tourists seem to realise that they'll often be charged the same commission of around 2.5% for making cash withdrawals abroad with their debit card!
To add insult to injury most of the UK's biggest high street banks then add on an additional charge of around £1.50 every time you withdraw cash from an ATM abroad using your standard debit card. These banks include Halifax, Lloyds, NatWest, RBS and Santander. Using your debit card directly for purchases whilst abroad is another expensive mistake as such tranactions will incur the same "loading fee" of around 2.75% which applies to credit cards. You won't necessarily notice this fee as it's hidden within the exchange rate.
So what's the best way to minimize these hidden charges? The best soultion is to get yourself a Euro Currency Card which you load up before travelling then use abroad.
These cards help you avoid unnecessary charges and offer some of the best exchange rates around. Specialist companies such as Fairfx and Caxton offer better terms on their currency cards than the likes of Thomas Cook who tend to offer a worse exchange rate when loading up your card.
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Not only will it help you save money it will also save you valuable time by directing you to key travel websites where the best offers can be found.